India vs Bangladesh: Mayank Agarwal, fearless and run-obsessed

India opener Mayank Agarwal smashed his second double ton in only 12 Test innings. The shot-making is all about the gut feeling of the ball landing in his half.

Mayank Agarwal celebrates after reaching his Test double hundred against Bangladesh on Friday.   -  R.V. Moorthy

Mayank Agarwal has been around for a while. He made his IPL debut at 19, but the ascension started as soon as he started dominating bowlers in domestic cricket. The right-hander had to wait for a long time before the India cap came calling.

It is true that he should have broken into the Indian side right after ruling the run charts in the 2017-18 season for Karnataka. Mayank had finished with 2,169 runs in 32 innings in that timeline. The chance came almost after 11 months, in Australia, when the openers’ struggle Down Under called for an immediate medicine.

In the first Test against Bangladesh here, the 28-year-old scored his second international double ton (243) — just a month after registering his maiden double against South Africa in October. He has made up for the lost time.

When you talk to him about his game, you see aggression in his eyes and the hunger to remain consistent. He barely makes a mistake in shot selection and is obsessed with scoring runs. He could have been out for 32 had Imrul Kayes not dropped him on day one.

“If I have a chance, I will make them pay. I am an aggressive batsman and I back myself if I feel the ball is in my half. If I think I can attack a bowler, definitely I will,” he keeps it straight.

Fearless and attacking

Mayank believes in his shot-making capabilities. And that’s why he doesn’t hesitate to for a maximum even when batting on 196. “It depends on who you want to attack and picking the right ball. You can’t hit every ball. It is not going to happen that way but understanding the situation, and understanding the bowler and the balls [is important]. You pick those balls and you should have the mental discipline to wait for those balls.”

Karnataka stalwart R. Vinay Kumar has a role in changing Mayank’s vision. The batsman was left dazed and confused after a pair against Hyderabad in Ranji Trophy two years ago.

“But after the two ducks, I knew nothing could be worse for a batsman. The game had to go only upward from there. I was fortunate to have Vinay by my side. He told me, ‘Mayank, you are not going to get runs in every game. There will be bad days, but whenever you sense you are having a good day, you should make it big,”’ he had told this publication in an interview. The string of scores that followed read 304*, 176, 23, 90, 133*, 173, 134.

Former Karnataka skipper R. Vinay Kumar had a calming influence on Mayank Agarwal.   -  G.P. Sampath Kumar

 

The batting had turned interstellar, and the hunger is intact. “There have been times when I have not got runs, I must respect the game. I want to put the team in such a position that we cannot lose from here. When you got a a hundred, it is on you to take the team through.

“At 196, I thought I will give myself four to five overs and I will look to play in ones unless I get something in my half. I picked a couple of strokes and I thought if it comes in this area, I will play my shots; it just happened that I got the ball in my half,” he summed up his gargantuan knock, which is also his highest score in Test cricket now.

Learning from mistakes

Bangladesh off-spinner Mehidy Hasan came close to dismissing him on 82 but the ball was stuck high on the pad. Mayank aimed for a sweep in a half-bent position, but umpire Marais Erasmus had raised his finger that was later overturned by a review.

But the original decision shook the batsman up. Shocked and in disbelief, he stared at the umpire for a while before Ajinkya Rahane approved the review call.

“When I thought it hit on the pad, I wasn’t out. When I was given out, I had a quick flashback as I had got out the same way to Roston Chase in West Indies. I was glad and happy that it was missing. I couldn’t have make the same mistake,” he said.

But he doesn’t go through his batting videos to study the marathon knocks. The correction is all stored in the head. Meditation helps him and PUBG — an online multiplayer game — is a new addition.

“I see inspiration everywhere in the dressing room. Everyone has big scores. There are stalwarts to my left and right and I can go up to anybody.” And when back in the hotel room after a good knock? “Mayank plays PUBG.”